‘Life giving faith, defiant hope, generous love’
Revd Martin John Nicholls
On the mud wall of a small Christian Aid field office in Rwanda I noticed the remains of poster. It was faded and weathered as it flapped in the hot breeze. The words read: “A candle in the darkness is a non-conformist; it says to the dark, ‘I beg to differ’.”
Those words have challenged and inspired me ever since. We all experience times when, metaphorically or actually, the lights have gone out leaving us lost and bewildered. Deep down, many of us are still afraid of the dark. It only takes someone to light one candle flame in a dark room for two important things to happen: firstly, every eye will turn to the flame, because where there is light there is hope; secondly, after only a few moments our eyes will adjust and we are able to see around us – not in great detail, but enough to make out the obstacles, the people around us, and the safe way out. We will feel secure. We will feel empowered. Hope and illumination from just one small flame.
I have seen, with my own eyes, nights of despair, hopelessness and pain transformed by the light of love. I have stood with Christian Aid partners in some of the poorest communities on the planet as they have wept and danced and sung with celebration because their hard work, courageous campaigning and heartfelt prayers have been joined by ours and a future of hope and healing has been unveiled for them and their families.
One unforgettable day in Senegal, I met Gloria, a mother of five girls. She had lost her young husband to cholera and had resorted to begging simply to keep her daughters alive. She told me that they were found on the street by a Christian Aid partner, who gave accommodation and food, and trained them in new skills which, in time, allowed all six of them to run their own fabric printing business. When I met them they were living in their own house, running their business and earning a decent living. They served me tea, and shared their story with such humility and dignity. As I made to leave them Gloria said to me: “You, Martin, you are a Christian?” I replied that I was. She said: “I am Muslim.” I nodded, so proud that Christian Aid works with people of all faiths and none. Gloria continued, “If you are Christian, you will understand this – my girls and I have tasted resurrection. We were dead, and now we are alive.”
A devote Muslim woman testifying to her new life – using our Christian understanding and terminology to explain the hope and healing that she has experienced. Such is the power of love.
In a world in which we are warned against the threat of others, encouraged to be suspicious of others, such love that embraces the poorest is seen as non conformist. It screams at our selfishness and fear “I beg to differ”. Following Jesus today demands such life giving faith, defiant hope, and generous love. It always has.
Christian Aid give us the tools to do just that – to live as if the Kingdom of God is here, because when we do… it is.
Revd Martin John Nicholls is minister of the church at Point in View